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Who is a Jain Shravak: 6.1 Characteristics of Right Faith

Published: 08.02.2020

A 'shravak' is endowed with Right Faith, Right Knowledge, and Right Conduct. The question is how do we know that one has attained 'samyaktva' (right faith)? What are the parameters and defining characteristics of samyaktva'?

Five essential characteristics of 'samyaktva' have been expounded in the Aagams. Acharya Tulsi has explained these in Shravak Sambodh as:

sham-ho kashaay ka sahaj shaman, samveg-mumuksha vritti sabal,
nirved -badhe bhav se viraag, anukampa-karuna bhaav amal.
aastikya-karm aatmaadik mein, janmaantar mein vishvaas prabal,
yeh lakshan samyak darshan ke, jeevan yaatra mein hai sambal.

It means the five characteristics inherent in a shravak should be:

  1. Sham (Equanimity)
  2. Samveg (Intense desire for salvation)
  3. Nirved (Detachment from the world)
  4. Anukampa (Non-violent compassion)
  5. Aastikya (Strong faith in soul, law of karma and re-birth)

1. Sham

The first defining characteristic of right faith is sham (equanimity). Right faith occurs when kashaay (passion) is pacified and the mind is at peace. Right faith is not possible in a person who is always ready to quarrel and fight for every minor issue and is not at peace. It is a matter to reflect upon if a shravak feels that his mind is unsteady or stressed. Why is his mind puzzled if he has right faith? He may be confronting adverse circumstances or have difficulties and problems in his life. Nonetheless, a shravak's mind should remain steady. His mind must stay in equanimity.

Kashaay: The Cause of Restlessness

Anger, Ego, Deceit and Greed are the four types of kashaay. In an extreme state they create immense stress. When they are subdued, a person feels peaceful. Weak kashaay and strong will power never lets the mind experience stress.

  1. Anger - The greater the intensity of anger, the greater is the unrestful mind. Intense anger can make our hormones poisonous. Science has also proved change in body-chemistry during the state of anger and its harmful effects on our health. Thus, it is evident that we should remain calm and refrain ourselves from getting angry.

  2. Ego - Ego causes conflicts. A man full of ego thinks that he is the most important person in the entire world. Today he may be a very successful businessman, but what happens when circumstances change? He may be Prime Minister of the country today, but nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. We have seen many instances of people attaining utmost success and falling abysmally. Situations can turn so drastically that it is difficult to predict what is going to happen next. So, why should one have ego when we are not even sure about tomorrow? In this unstable world, ego reflects nothing but foolishness, ignorance and intense passion. Where there is ego, there will be restlessness.

  3. Deceit - Deceit leads to an unstable mind. Law of nature is such that one who tries to entangle others in a web of deceit, himself gets caught in it. One who tells a lie deceitfully has to create a web of conspiracy around him. It is said - purvamchintaprayogasy asamye jaayate bhayam. It means, a person lives in anxiety before telling a lie and is fearful of being exposed while telling a lie. The extremity of deceit gives birth to a restless mind.

  4. Greed - Though greed exists in each and every person, an intense state of greed causes agitation. It can be in the form of an excessive desire to possess or acquire more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth. Ignorance gives birth to restlessness. To be sorrowful is ignorance. Restlessness of mind and confronting the problems is not one and the same. In the absence of kashaay and ignorance mind remains restful. The stronger the kashaay, the greater the level of restlessness will be. The weaker the intensity of kashaay, mind will be more peaceful.

Who is a Scholar?

A question was raised in a conference: 'Who is a true scholar?' The answer given was:

shamartham sarvashaastraani, vihitaani manishibhi,
sa eva sarvashaastragyah, yasya shaantam sada manah.

Scholars have devised scriptures for the peace of mind. Therefore, whose mind is always peaceful is a true scholar. Shaastrambhaaro-avivekinam - scriptures become burdensome for those who are imprudent. For those who are modest and free from kashaay, the scriptures are gift.

Why does conflict occur?

One who has faith in soul, attains peace of mind. Everyone should know their goal. A person whose goal is to realise the soul doesn't go through any kind of conflict. In the situations of conflict, he would think 'I'm a soul, and the other person is also 'soul', not the body. Then who should I fight with?' Such positive thinking extinguishes the spark of conflict. When a person forgets the soul, and lives at the level of physical body, conflict and struggle are inevitable. It also implies that when a person realises the soul, he attains a peaceful state. There is neither conflict nor struggle in this state. Whenever he is at the level of body, his mind becomes restless and consequently, stress and conflict may arise. Belief in the soul confirms the existence of right faith. Our behaviour and instinct are transformed positively by having keen faith in soul.

Staying close to the soul

There's an ancient story. Once upon a time, a king led a procession and the entire public came to witness it. There were myriads of people in the market place who were amazed to see the procession. Just a few steps away, a child was playing with his friends. They were not looking at the procession at all. Suddenly the King's attention was diverted towards these children. The King couldn't resist. He stopped the procession and went to the children, but they were engrossed in their game.

King: 'Dear children! Look here! Who am I?'

Child: 'I don't know. Who are you?'

King: 'I am the King of this country.'

Child: 'You might be a King at your palace. Why are you here?'

King: 'You seem to be a nice boy. Why are you playing with the clay?'

Child: 'Where else will an effigy of clay play if not in the clay?'

King: 'Will you come with me? Will you stay in my palace?'

Child: 'I can, provided you fulfil two of my conditions.'

King (surprised): 'What are those?'

Child: '1. You will not go anywhere without me. 2. You will have to stay awake when I sleep.'

King: 'It is not possible to fulfill your conditions.'

Child: 'Then I cannot accompany you. My soul is always with me. It has never left me alone. It is constantly alert even if I'm sleeping. How can I go with you, leaving it?'

Once a person focuses his life in and around his soul or consciousness, he will never indulge in any quarrelling. By living close to your soul, there is no chance of any dispute, or conflict. The more you are away from your soul and closer to your kashaay, the more instances of conflict will arise. Right faith exists where there is peace of mind and passions are diluted.

2. Samveg

The second defining characteristic of right faith is samveg. The desire for salvation awakens with right outlook. Right faith begets the desire to be free from worldly bondage. In the absence of right faith people get pleasure in worldly bondage. One cannot get rid of delusion and realise the soul, until the desire for salvation is intensified.

3. Nirved

The third defining characteristic of right faith is nirved. This means detachment from the world, life and death. Lotus blooms in the mud but it isn't smeared by it, likewise a person who has right faith leads a detached life whilst accomplishing all of his worldly duties. Though, life can be difficult without amenities needed for survival. Clothes, food and shelter are the basic necessities of life, though attachment with them is not commendable. There should be neither attachment while residing in a palace nor hate when living in a hut. One should comprehend the necessity of having materialistic possessions but should be enslaved by them.

4. Anukampa

The fourth defining characteristic of right faith is compassion for all living beings. There are two types of compassions: saavadya(impure compassion) and nirvadya(pure compassion). Compassion which is confined to protection of the life alone or as a result of attachment is called impure compassion (saavadyaanukampa). Compassion with the purpose of protection of the very soul from sinful activities is known as pure compassion (nirvadyaanukampa). This pure compassion is the defining characteristic of right faith. A person without compassion is devoid of right faith. On the contrary, a person with right faith can never indulge in any kind of violent activities such as murder, terrorism, robbery etc. With development of right faith, a person realises oneself and develops a feeling of equality for all living beings. In this egalitarian state, his emotions of violence get subdued.

5. Aastikya

The fifth defining characteristic of right faith is aastikya. One who has right faith believes in soul, its transmigration and re-birth. If one thinks about his next birth while performing any activity, he can avoid from doing many evil deeds. One has to experience the effects of the karma done in the past. There is no escape. Even after knowing this truth, a person without right faith does not remain aware of what he is doing.

Aastikya is having faith and belief in the tenets such as existence of soul, karma, rebirth, emancipation and the law of experiencing the consequences of ones' karma. Belief in these principles also reinforces the belief in meditation, austerities, and purity.

How to Strengthen Right Faith

We have discussed all the five defining characteristics of right faith. Now the question may arise, when can the state of sham be awakened? When can samveg be active? When can nirved take place? When can the feeling of anukampa stay alive? The answer to these questions can be given in one sentence:

By concentrating on our soul, the consciousness of sham, samveg, nirvedh and anukampa will get awakened.

A person with right faith contemplates on a specific thought of 'Soham - I am a soul. I am both the atma and the paramaatma (pure-consciousness).' This understanding and contemplation of soul nourishes the right faith.

Foundation of Spiritual Development

The emergence of right faith is a supreme achievement of our life. With the attainment of right faith, ignorance gets transformed into knowledge. In the absence of right faith, true knowledge also gets perverted. This is a vital philosophy of Bhagawan Mahavira expressed in the following stanza:

Ban jaaye agyaan gyaan yadi samyak darshan,
Mahavira ka mulyavaan yah jeevan darshan.
aarya Bhikshu ka isi disha mein kadam badha hai,
Isa ne janmaandha vyakti se paath padha hai.

Right Faith is the foundation of spiritual development. Iron becomes gold with the touch of Paras gem. Similarly, ignorance becomes knowledge by emergence of right faith. With the awakening of right faith, perspective becomes right, philosophical understanding is rectified, thinking is transformed, and conscience is awakened.

Right Perspective Transforms the Heart

AcharyaBhikshu was strongly influenced by the preaching of Bhagawan Mahavira. He followed the principles of Bhagawan Mahavira throughout his life. It is a common belief that many people can be convinced to practice religion either by coercion (forcefully) or by transformation of heart. Forceful practice is nothing but an effect of perverted perspective (mithyaatv). On the other hand, belief of transformation of heart indicates right perspective.

AcharyaBhikshu said, 'Until the perspective is changed, a person cannot be transformed.'

Let alone being religious, a person cannot become even genuine if the perspective is not right. As an illustration, seeing a poor person's grief, someone may have pity and try to make him happy by helping him by all possible means. It is possible. However, the question arises did his heart get transformed and he became a righteous person by getting pity and help? Can his perspective be made positive through such ways?

AcharyaBhikshu has explained this fact through a heart-stirring illustration.

A butcher was driving some goats to the slaughter house. A pedestrian saw the goats and gave the butcher some money. He then released the goats. Their lives were saved for a while, but what was the true benefit to the butcher? Did he stop killing? Was there any transformation in his outlook? Did his mind be abstained from violence? Until his thoughts are transformed, he will not abstain from slaughtering.

AcharyaBhikshu understood the root cause of the problem and would emphasize on achieving an everlasting solution to the problem. His goal was to inspire people to relinquish their evils willingly by deep contemplation and transformation of their hearts, rather than by coercion or temptation.

Awakening of Insight is Important

Service in Christianity is well-known. Jesus Christ himself served the needy and sorrowful people. Once, a blind youth came to Jesus Christ and started crying. Christ asked him, 'What do you want?' He replied, 'The life of a blind person is a curse. Please relieve me of this curse.' Christ said, 'As you wish' and bestowed upon him. He got the eyesight.

One day the young man was running after a prostitute. Christ recognised him. He said, 'Are you the same person I blessed with the gift of sight?' The young man was astonished. He came to Christ and replied fearfully, 'Yes, My Lord, I am.' Preaching to him Christ said, 'Were you given the gift of sight to run after a prostitute?' The man replied, 'Lord, you gave me the gift of sight alone. If you would have given me the gift of insight also, I would not be in this situation.'

Having sight is ordinary; but awakening of insight and conscience is extraordinary. This awakening is the attainment of right faith.

The holistic development of human consciousness is based on this concept. A person who is endowed with this achievement can progress spiritually.


Title:  Who is a Jain Shravak?

Acharya MahaPragya


Sadhvi Vishrut Vibha

Publisher:  Adarsh Sahitya Vibhag, JVB
Digital Publishing: 
Amit Kumar Jain

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Aagams
  2. Acharya
  3. Acharya Tulsi
  4. Anger
  5. Anukampa
  6. Atma
  7. Bhaav
  8. Bhikshu
  9. Body
  10. Christianity
  11. Consciousness
  12. Contemplation
  13. Darshan
  14. Deceit
  15. Equanimity
  16. Greed
  17. Karma
  18. Lakshan
  19. Mahavira
  20. Manah
  21. Meditation
  22. Samyak Darshan
  23. Science
  24. Shravak
  25. Soul
  26. Tulsi
  27. Violence
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